Maryland, which a month ago seemed on the verge of one of the best fall recruiting classes in college basketball, apparently has lost its two most highly rated prospects.
Louis Bullock, a 6-foot-3 guard from Temple Hills, is expected to announce today that he has chosen Michigan. And Luther Clay, a 6-9 power forward at Maine Central Institute, will sign with Purdue, the Terrapin Times reported today.
"Since he visited Michigan, they were in the lead," Chris Chaney, Bullock's coach at Laurel Baptist Academy, said yesterday. "We're going to back him on it. I think he'll succeed wherever he goes. It was definitely a tough decision."
Bullock, considered among the top 15 high school players nationally and one of the best point guards, informed Maryland coach Gary Williams of his decision yesterday. Williams, in accordance with NCAA rules, declined to comment.
Chaney said that Bullock has been promised an opportunity to compete for the starting point guard job in Ann Arbor next year, even though the team's incumbent, Dugan Fife, is a junior. Asked if the chance to go to school out of town was a factor, Chaney said, "I think it played a big part."
Maryland was hoping to team Bullock with Laron Profit, 6-6, of Delaware's Caesar Rodney High, as the backcourt successors to juniors Duane Simpkins and Johnny Rhodes. Profit announced last week his intention to come to Maryland and is expected to sign a letter of intent when the fall signing period begins tomorrow.
With Bullock out of the picture, Williams and his staff likely will focus on two other highly rated point guards: Terrell Stokes, 6-0, of Simon Gratz in Philadelphia and Shawnta Rogers, 5-4, of Lake Clifton. Stokes and Rogers will have to wait until the spring signing period because neither has qualified academically under NCAA guidelines.
"The loss of Bullock is definitely a blow, but they're still involved with some good players," Tom Konchalski, a New York-based talent evaluator, said yesterday.
The loss of Clay, considered among the top five prospects in the country, could be more damaging in the event that sophomore All-American Joe Smith winds up in the NBA next season and if the Terps don't sign another frontcourt standout.
Clay was supposed to wait until the spring before deciding, but apparently will sit out his first year at Purdue because of Proposition 48.
The ACC prohibits its members from taking players who don't qualify under Prop 48 guidelines.
Another reason is that two of Clay's former high school teammates -- Chad Austin and Brad Miller -- are playing with the Boilermakers.
"He's not a kid who wants a lot of attention," Maine Central coach Max Goode said last night. "Figuratively speaking, he doesn't want fancy Italian loafers. He's more comfortable with an old pair of slippers. His friends being there had a lot to do with it."
With Clay apparently headed elsewhere, the Terps will hope to sign two other big men. Their immediate focus will be 6-10, 270-pound Obinna Ekezie, a Nigerian playing at Worcester (Mass) Academy. Their main focus will be on Randall Jackson, also 6-10, who is at the Winchendon (Mass.) School.
Ekezie is eligible to sign during the fall period; Jackson will have to wait until the spring because he hasn't met NCAA requirements.
Ekezie reportedly is considering Maryland and George Washington, and Jackson also is being recruited by North Carolina.